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Full text of "BURKE, BARTHES, BERLIN AND THE COMMUNAL CONVERSATION OF BUSINESS BLOGGING"

BURKE, BARTHES, BERLIN AND THE COMMUNAL CONVERSATION 

OF BUSINESS BLOGGING 
by 

Jared Russell Ewy 
B.S., Fort Lewis College, 1996 



A thesis submitted to the 
Faculty of the Graduate School of the 
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment 
of the requirements for the degree of 
Masters of Arts 
English 
2013 



This thesis for the Masters of Arts degree by 
Jared Russell Ewy 
has been approved for the 
Department of English 
by 



Michelle Comstock, Chair 
Joanne Addison 
Rodney Herring 



July 19, 2013 



ii 



Ewy, Jared Russell (M.A., English) 

Burke, Barthes, Berlin and the Communal Conversation of Business Blogging 
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Michelle Comstock 

ABSTRACT 

As a business composition professor or one of their students, you are most likely 
already engaged in intensive web and weblog writing lessons. I hope to add to what 
you're learning because the job market demands creative content providers who 
understand how to build and maintain an online community. Using rhetorical theory, 
composition philosophy, practical analysis and personal experience, I'll incorporate into 
this thesis an easier way to utilize the blog, and therefore a way to maximize exposure in 
the community as a trusted expert in your field. 

The adage goes that people do business with those they know and trust. The blog 
builds those relationships online, and adds value to all of your other marketing activities. 
This thesis gives a glimpse into creating and accessing online communities. It's also for 
those who'd like further insight into the historical and rhetorical depth that delivers unto 
us an intuitive move for any company: get online and blog. What is the goal of a business 
but to profit? Meeting that objective and maintaining solvency cannot be a simple 
endeavor, but building a blog for your company can help greatly in attracting new 
customers and retaining those that you already have. 

"Start a blog" might seem like a flippant suggestion to those embedded in their 
offices, cubicles and other workspaces buried in what seems an insurmountable amount 
of work. Keeping in mind that there can be nothing more annoying than a zealot of one 

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form or another shrieking about how companies need to adopt and adapt, in this thesis I 
will create a place where theory and practice meet; where the business blogger can make 
the most impact by incorporating the requirements of the blog into what they're already 
doing within their daily work routines. 

The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. 

Approved: Michelle Comstock 



iv 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

CHAPTER 

I. THE FOUNDATION OF A GREAT PLATFORM 1 

H. TRUE STORY WRAPPED IN USEFUL BLOGGING ADVICE 6 

III. SEO: THE NECESSARY EVIL THAT'S NOT SO EVIL ANYMORE 10 

IV. HOW ONE HAS A CHANCE IN GETTING THEIR MESSAGE BEYOND A FEW 

"LIKES' ON FACEBOOK 15 

The Inspiration: Making Your Blog Significant (With Insight For Pedagogy).... 21 

Voice: Figure Out Who You Are And How You Should Sound 25 

The First Rule Of Blogging: Blog 27 

V. BECOMING BETTER BY BUILDING A COMMUNITY 37 

VI. A RHETORICAL STRUCTURE FOR PROLIFIC WRITING AND DIGITAL 

INTERACTION 40 

VII. CONCLUSION 46 

REFERENCES 48 



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LIST OF FIGURES 

Figure 

III. 1 "Keyword Stuffing" for SEO circa 2006 11 

IV. 1 WordPress.com 16 

IV.2 Justin's links 18 

IV.3 Heather Armstrong's blog 19 

IV.4 Armstrong's updated 20 

IV.5 Tumblr 24 

IV. 6 The Interactive Rhetoric of blogging 30 

IV.7 Google Analytics 33 

IV. 8 Facebook and Twitter 34 

IV. 9 Incredible numbers 35 

V. l People are listening and sharing 39 



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CHAPTER I 



THE FOUNDATION OF A GREAT PLATFORM 



We know the importance of the Internet and we are aware of how integral online 
discourse is to the success of business. Even businesses that aren't online are affected by 
the trends and topics that are weaved into the interconnectivity of the World Wide Web's 
evolving dialogue. This paper is going to argue that the weblog, more commonly known 
as the "blog," is not only an important part of the discourse on the Internet, but also that 
its simplicity of use makes it a worthy investment of your time and effort. Simply "put in 
your oar" and become part of the conversation, might say Kenneth Burke, who shared 
such sentiment long before the web. Like other inspirations for this thesis, Burke's 
analyses of symbols, actions, communication, history, writing, relationships, rhetoric and 
their relevance are principles by which communication thrives. In Burke's The 
Philosophy of Literary Form, he wrote his oft-cited metaphor for the parlor dialectic that 
makes history: 

"Where does the drama get its materials? From the 'unending 
conversation' that is going on at the point in history when we are born. Imagine 
that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long 
preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too 
heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the 
discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one 
present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen 
for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then 
you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your 
defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment of 
gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's 
assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you 
must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress" 
(96). 



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The "Burkean Parlor" provides a lush visual backdrop for the endlessly cavernous 
Internet, and it leaves a place at the table for James Berlin's landmark book Rhetoric and 
Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1985 where he somehow fits 
eighty-five years of composition studies in fewer than two hundred pages. From him we 
get insight on the importance of rhetoric, mostly Classical Transactional Rhetoric, and 
discover a brazen connection between the ease and usefulness of business blogging and 
his declaration that "all truths arise out of dialectic, out of the interaction of individuals 
within discourse communities" (16). 

There are many more sources to cite, because with business blogging you can't 
have only theory, but guidance to put it into practice. For that, I will share insight from 
interviews with multiple business bloggers. Erika Napoletano, Rick Ramos and Erik 
Wolf have all been published on the subject of blogging, including why you blog, how 
you blog and exactly what you do to make your blogging matter. For the basic writing 
lessons to get the content your blog requires, I go to Peter Elbow, the author Writing with 
Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process. His hope is that he can make "you 
comfortable putting words on paper," which is, as you can imagine, a very important part 
of the blogging process (95). 

The history of blogging, its rapid ascent to communication juggernaut, and its 
relevance is delivered to you via analytical blog commentators like David Barlow, Robert 
Klotz, Michael Keren and Scott Rosenberg. I also invoke tech evangelist and blogging 
pioneer Robert Scoble. His insight, along with the basic how-to knowledge of Eric Butow 
and Rebecca Bollwitt, found in their collaboration Blogging to Drive Business, help lay 
out the bones to the blog. For the blog's soul, I consult Carolyn Miller and Dawn 



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Shepherd. Their article "Blogging as Social Action: A Genre Analysis of the Weblog" is 
some of the most intriguing reading around blogs and the "recurrent rhetorical motive 
that has found a conventional mode of expression" (1468). 

I share multiple rhetorical theorists, modern bloggers and business consultants, 
and will synthesize the information currently available to prepare you for successful 
business blogging. Finally, for inspiration— for sensuality in the minutiae of the sentence- 
-Roland Barthes illustrates the need to appreciate writing for more than its words. His 
short The Pleasure of the Text rollicks through the pages giving your writing a body, a 
vessel for pleasure, and not simply the subjugation of a day's work. Blogging allows for a 
company to blow away the bricks and mortar of traditional business with a launching of 
ideas into the ever-expanding "blogosphere." Business blogging can be transcendent. It 
lives beyond the boardroom and in the fluorescent exhale of a modern technology office. 
It's a newly defined space, perhaps even the plush upholstery and fireplace warmth of the 
Burkean parlor. What you as a blogger creates is up to up to you. 

What's up to me is this very moment creating a path that takes someone from 
staring blankly at their computer to smiling at their blog. It's a fulfillment that begins 
with the individual and spreads throughout the blogging community. It's the unending 
conversation; it's Berlin's transactional truth. It's deriving pleasure from Barthe's text 
because with just one posting the process begins and new media are linked into action. 

And that brings me to the main point of this thesis: business blogging is not 
business writing, it is communal sharing. 

This might not be the case with everyone, but for some I feel that the phrase 
"communal sharing" can lead to side effects such as furrowed brows, rolling eyes and 



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dismissive mutterings about group hugs. That could just be my experience in business, 
but as a reader you're likely a student or a teacher; the former growing up in the modern 
era of online collaboration and the latter renowned as a Swiss Army knife of interactivity. 
Even if you are not immediately taken by the idea of a community gathered around your 
work, you might be more moved to find that, with blogging, your goal is to share your 
expertise. You get to be who you are and, through the process of the online conversation, 
build your reputation while helping others. I'll argue the blog is key for sharing what you 
do, how you do it and why. 

In the spirit of a sharing community, this paper is not at all dismissal of social 
media (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin), or even that of traditional media. Newspaper, 
television and radio are the big three "traditional" sources of media, but going back even 
further, my argument will not at all forget the granddaddy of modern communication, the 
printed page. Because I'd like to show that, with a blog, all communication platforms can 
be better utilized to make them accessible. When you step outside of school and decide 
what you want to do, then make it count by sharing your business ideals, culture, 
products and services. The blog is a hub where you and your efforts can be fully 
appreciated and understood. 

It should be disclaimed that while the Internet has inspired a lot of heartwarming 
talk and symbolic rainbows, that that isn't enough to get a blog beyond the door. This 
thesis will focus on composing text for the blog. At points it will be at risk of falling into 
the giant bargain bin of "how to" blog books because it's not productive to discuss blog 
composition without blog strategy. I'll begin with a story of my own failure and success 
before propping up the platform with the basics of blogging, search engine optimization, 



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building communities and, finally, an analysis of the innovative rhetorical structure of the 
blog. Turns out the genre revealed itself in the nick of time, giving businesses a place to 
go in the great flood of the Information Age (or it could be the blog's popularity became 
a result of circumstance.) 

Consistent and phenomenal blog content can thrive on its own, but this thesis will 
help with what online content creators should do: position their creative material for most 
possible exposure. Those benefactors of business who granted permission for a company 
blog will appreciate it. And, of course, for anyone blogging as a sole proprietor or 
freelance scribe, it's downright necessary. 



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CHAPTER II 



TRUE STORY WRAPPED IN USEFUL BLOGGING ADVICE 



I'm a professional blogger, and never has there been more of a demand for 
blogging content. In my case, the success of Twitter and Facebook has given the blog a 
new life, opening arteries to share more information. It is suggested that if you have a 
business Twitter and Facebook account, you have to have a blog. As it turns out, sharing 
you ate a biscuit or that you love your children, while both arguably necessary, aren't the 
status updates that keep people coming back. Web browsers (both human and computer) 
want content; they want to be informed, and the blog is the meat on the bare bones of a 
micro-blogging platform. 

I don't consider myself a consultant (although it might be a good idea for pay 
purposes.) I create blogging content for businesses that want to be a part of a bigger 
conversation. They want a reason for others to share their information online, they want 
people to see that their site is updated and relevant, and they want their web address to be 
associated with useful information to both people and search engines. Actually, one feeds 
the other. If people like it, comment about it and link to it, so will Google. Suddenly, after 
a decade of trying all kinds of trickery to be found on the Internet, it comes down to 
simply being interesting. Not unlike a good conversationalist at a cocktail party, but now 
you don't have to do your hair or dress for a pageant. You can be heard and get the 
necessary feedback without having to outshout the kids in the front of the class. Just as 
the blog can make a small business more of an authority than a bigger company, it can 



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also move the voices in the back forward, creating a level front on a more even playing 
field. 

Carrying on the sports analogy, I was getting trounced at the sharing game. As a 
radio guy I'd gotten very used to the one-way blasting we incurred upon our audience 
with regularly scheduled programming. Great radio is often interactive, but it can be very 
patriarchal, too. Radio talent gets very spoiled with the ability to tell people where to go, 
how to live and what to listen to. So when I got out because I was certain my brain was 
beginning to atrophy, I tried my hand at this new-fangled social media stuff. I'd promote 
my standup comedy shows on Twitter and Facebook, yet no one would show up. I'm not 
saying radio doesn't provide a value to the public, I just didn't know how to thrive 
without the built-in community that comes through billboards, giveaways, tireless 
promotion and a controlling stake in the oligopoly of in-car entertainment. In 2008, after 
some sporadic success, I caved. I folded my freelance business and became a bureaucrat. 

A few years later, with my term as a government communications specialist at an 
end, and with a decision that was met with mixed reviews from my wife, I decided to do 
100 comedy shows in 10 days. After learning difficult lessons about making bureaucracy 
interesting to the average American household, my first goal was to make my own 
personal event mean something to somebody other than me. To add relevance to my 
quest, I teamed up with Volunteers of America so that every show raised money for their 
multitudes of charitable projects. Every blogger I interviewed for this thesis echoed a 
similar sentiment about being more than just a shallow and perhaps shameless promoter. 
Erik Wolf, a blogging consultant, said in an interview that advertising a simple sale won't 
work on a blog, and in his book Blogfor Business: Leveraging Content for Online 



7 



Marketing and Lead Generation, declares that online "people who 'sell' in the traditional 
sense are generally looked upon as cheesy, selfish, spammy or altogether irrelevant" 
(127). 

To avoid becoming a flaming ball of failure, I moved forth in a fashion that 
(unwittingly to me at the time) corresponds with James Berlin's research in critical 
rhetoric. His work shed light on a rhetorical altruism where students can become 
"subjects, not objects, of their experience" and with that a world "can be made to serve 
more equitably the interests of individuals" (Berlin, 773). What I understood is that there 
needed to be a quid pro quo for people to be motivated. The irony is that without my 
partnership with VOA no one's interest, not even mine, would have been served. As a 
blogger in a world of billions of daily rhetorical transactions that allow for a more diverse 
selection of entertainment, news and promotional stunts like mine, you'll sit in a lonely 
place if you cannot offer some benefit to the community in which you communicate. 

Having the potential benefit of bringing laughter to the community, along with the 
rock solid offering of helping the community with donations to VOA, all I needed was a 
way to let people know what I was up to and how they could become involved. Here's 
where blogging comes in. First, I bought a domain name (100inl0.com) and used URL 
(Uniform Resource Locator) forwarding so that it would resolve at my site on the free 
blogging platform, Squarespace.com. There are blog services that range from really easy 
to quite tech-savvy difficult. Squarespace is in the "easy" category in that, like Blogger or 
Tumblr, you don't need website hosting. The blogs live on their computer servers, which 
means I had less flexibility with content and design, and I couldn't move from one 
hosting provider to another. I traded those options for convenience. I did not need to buy 



8 



a domain name, as once an online blogging platform is set up, it has its own URL, or web 
address. Buying the domain makes it more memorable and easier to share. 



9 



CHAPTER III 



SEO: THE NECESSARY EVIL THAT'S NOT SO EVIL ANYMORE 

In the case of my 100 shows in ten days, I chose a platform that was hosted 
because this was going to be a short-lived blog. I did not need the extra flexibility and 
space that comes with Wordpress.org, for example, that must be uploaded to a separate 
hosting account. 

In about ten minutes I was ready to blog and share. I'd spent ten dollars for the 
domain, but the blog was free. Most all of the basic blogging services are free, with 
graduated levels of expense for more memory, functionality and features. Still, with my 
completely free blog I was able to: 

• Provide a unique and memorable link to anyone interested, especially media 
outlets, 

• Define myself as a comedian who gave a damn, 

• Post pictures and videos of the shows I was doing and for whom, 

• Have one consolidated place to send traffic and 

• Create a public calendar for the times available for interested participants 

I did not employ much Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is the process of 

employing content to improve the relevance of your website to Internet search engines. 

Usually, with blogs, search engines can find your site based on your organic inclusions 

such as written entries, headlines, images and descriptions. This means the end of the 

forgettable days of stilted web copy jammed with as many relevant keywords as possible. 

10 



Find Real Estate Listings and Homes/Houses for Sale 



Search and post homes, houses, land, commercial & investment property, really and real estate for sale in the Global 
Listing Service® at My REALTY.com. 

Global Listing Service® (GLS) compared to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) 

The Global Listing Service is a superset of homes, houses, land, property, really and real estate for sale. The Global 
Listing Service includes homes, houses, land, property, and real estate that are listed for sale in the MLS (Multiple 
Listing Service), new homes, rentals, foreclosures, and many other property types. The Global Listing Service® can be 
found exclusively at My REALTY.com. 

Find Real Estate Agents/Broke rs/REALTQRS® 

You can search and find Real Estate Agents, Brokers, and REALTORS® in the Global Listing! Service® Provider 
directory at My REALTY.com. Many real estate agents, brokers, and REALTORS®, are posting their properties into the 
Global Listing Service® (GLS) at My REALTY.com because they understand the value of maximizing the exposure of 
ttieir client's real estate and homes for sale. 

Find Apartments/Rentals/Houses for Rent 

Renters can search and find Apartments and Houses/Homes for rent in the Global Listing Service® (GLS) at My 
REALTY.com. Many real estate owners, investors, and property managers are posting their apartments and houses for 
rent into the Global Listing Service at My REALTY.com, because they understand the value of maximizing the exposure 
of exposing their apartments and houses for rent to millions of renters who are search the Global Listing Service® (GLS) 
at My REALTY.com 

Mortgage / Home Loan / Refinance your Real Estate or House/Home 

If you are in the market for a mortgage, home loan, or to refinance your existing house or real estate, you need look no 
further than My REALTY Mortgage.com, In addition to our Heroic Service Guarantee, we offer a FREE pre-approval 
letter, which sellers and tfieir agents value much more than a pre^qualification letter. After you have shopped around for 
your mortgage and you are ready to obtain your home loan or refinance, make sure and visit MyREALTY.com, In 
addition to mortgages and home loans, you can find many mortgage calculators at My REALTY Mortgage .corn as well. 

Second Mortgage and Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) for your House 

In addition to Mortgages and Home Loans, My REALTY Mortgage.com offers second mortgages and home equity lines 
of credit (HELOC). As a matter of fact, My REALTY Mortgage.com also offers mortgages and loans o n commercial real 
estate, luxury homes, raw land and property for sale. 



Figure III.l: "Keyword Stuffing" for SEO circa 2006. Do not write weblogs or any 
web copy like this, which may have been written by this graduate student. 



Recently, search engine algorithms have been modified to favor content that 
humans might actually enjoy as well. If you were to focus on SEO with your blog, you'd 
do four simple steps, and then do exactly what pioneer tech blogger Robert Scoble and 
SEO professional Rick Ramos will soon share. First the steps: 



11 



1. Use key phrases in the descriptions and headlines when setting up your blog. 

2. Update your blog often. 

3. Be genuine and real in using key phrases that you'd like people to find. 

4. Register your blog with search engine directories. 

One of the biggest boosts, however, to your Google Page Rank (PR) are 
backlinks, or other bloggers and other websites linking back to your site. This is where 
tech evangelist and blogger Scoble comes in and, it's funny, the PR he's talking about is 
Public Relations, but with updated search engine queries for Google Page Rank 
qualifications, there are now many similarities between the two. In his article "How to 
Get Good PR for Yourself in the Blogosphere," he offers these tips: 

1. "Go where the bloggers are." That is to say, meet and create relationships with those 
you want to share material. Show them you care about them, and they'll care about you. 

2. "Read the blogs of the people you want to cover you." Find them in forums, 
conventions, on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. Find them and interact on 
their sites. Even the most popular bloggers seek interaction in their comment sections. 

3. "Send bloggers interesting stories." It's about the community. When you take care of 
fellow bloggers, there's a better chance they'll link back to your site and be more 
receptive to reading your material. 

4. "Start blogging." Other bloggers are searching for stories that you've yet to write. 

That's SEO simplified and if you use Wordpress there are plugins like the "All- 
in-One SEO Pack" that helps you boost your blog. In my case, I had confidence that the 
social networks would help me spread the story. In retrospect, that sounds more cocky 
than confident as chances were very high that no one would care. Out of the 95,000 



12 



weblogs created every day, you probably don't hear that much about most of them. 
(blogpulse.com) You can see that being too ideal about blogs can be hazardous to your 
hopes, but blogs have become catalysts for discussion, and despite any immediate success 
(or lack thereof) blogs deliver better and more organic SEO. 

Rick Ramos, SEO strategist at seOverflow in Denver says that "Keywords are 
still important but instead of solving for keywords, solve for relationships. Building links 
is about building relationships. You find where the people are and you go there, engage 
intelligently and sound like you know what you're talking about and then create 
phenomenal content." Once you're in or have built a blogging community, you become 
involved in the give and take (providing feedback, comments, and linking) of the 
conversation to get more links on more sites. This is important to business blogging 
composition because you can write as you were intended to write and search engines are 
more responsive to actual conversations within the community. 

The discussion I had with my wife about how I wanted to get into comedy again 
became magnified on a global scale, and once it gained notoriety online, was picked up 
by national television and even cable channel Comedy Central. A small part of the 
blogosphere was sharing this idea that I'd put into action from my kitchen. And here's the 
best part: people started to reference me as a comedian again. After ten of the more 
arduous days of my life, companies and organizations hired me to entertain for their 
events. I had, with the help of an ever-expanding digital dialogue, become who I'd 
wanted to be. The same can happen to personality of a business owner or to the brand 
(personality if you'd like) of a business by blogging about who or what the company 
decides to establish as an online presence. 



13 



With all the hype surrounding blogs, anyone who has started a website or a blog 
has most likely felt the disappointment. It always starts big and, on wings of enthusiasm, 
you make big plans to conquer the blogosphere. You take extra time to cultivate ideas 
and even more placing the photos, video and ensuring that the grammar and spelling are 
perfect. You send out the blog to hundreds of friends, post it on Twitter and Facebook, 
and then go wild with dreams of your writing gone viral. 

Waking up the next morning, the newborn blogger opens their laptop to find that 
no one, not even their closest electronic friends, have visited their site. On Facebook 
they've received a few "likes," which it appears has become the new pretending to listen. 
A chill blows across the Super Information highway. 

With disappointment ringing throughout the blogosphere, it's hard to believe that 
any but a few of the most popular weblogs can have any kind of impact on the actions of 
a political body. How can a lonely blog have any democratic will if there's no public 
participation? Hours of work and frustrating design experiments can culminate into your 
own forgotten Internet dead zone. 

So how. ..HOW.. .does one have a chance in getting their message beyond their a few 
"likes" on Facebook? 



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CHAPTER IV 



HOW ONE HAS A CHANCE IN GETTING THEIR MESSAGE BEYOND A FEW 

"LIKES' ON FACEBOOK 



We'll start with some history here. The next few paragraphs should do at least 
three things: 

1. Impress you with the blog's quick rise to interactive dominance. 

2. Depress you that you're up against a tsunami of competition. 

3. Inspire you with the ease you can enlist yourself into the conversation or, as Burke 
says, "Symbolically aligning" yourself with your assertions. 

It is called innovation: one day we're enjoying the latest Internet platform for self- 
expression (and by "enjoying" I mean raising the limelight level beyond the merit of 
anything ever) and the next we're mocking it as outdated. We still drive gas-powered cars 
and the Edison's incandescent light bulb remains best in the market, but it hasn't even 
been twenty years since the first "weblog" was published and we've already seen a 
microcosm of evolution that has forever changed human interaction. 

As David Barlow puts it in his book Blogging @merica, blogs "are part of the 
attempt to manage the information explosion" (134). An example of this deluge of data 
comes from two of the biggest media platforms on the Internet. In January of 2013, 
blogging juggernaut WordPress.com reported that its "users produce about 33.9 million 
new posts and 40.9 million new comments each month." 



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How many people read blogs 
on WordPress.com? 

Over 385 million people view more than 3.5 billion pages 

each month. 

View monthly pageview stats. 

4.000.000.000 




jjy2007 Way 2008 Wa-c-2009 ja-ja-y November Severe*- jj y 2a 12 

2010 2010 2011 



Fig IV.l WordPress.com shares the growth of their blogging platform. 

On YouTube, the vlogging (V for "video") giant with individual video entries and 
user feedback, seventy-two hours of video are uploaded to the user-generated video 
website every minute which, in turn, provides the "500 years of video" that are watched 
on Facebook every day (youtube.com). Blogs are helping to organize and "regularize" the 
network of the World Wide Web with "the growing culture of linking on the web, 
pressure towards always providing a pathway to the source of any bit of information" 
(Barlow, 134). 



16 



That's a perfect sentiment for what Miller and Shepherd call an "unusual 
opportunity to study the evolution of a genre" in their article "B logging as Social Action: 
A Genre Analysis of the Weblog" (1463). They discuss the "rhetorical exigence" of the 
blog as it characterized a "cultural kairos" of a people suddenly overwhelmed with an 
abundance media. In the 1990s we moved into the Real World on MTV and got a dose of 
an even realer world with our President's sex life served up to a bleary-eyed audience 
growing more callous by the day. From this, blogs arose with a new rhetorical power 
(1451). 

Today, in 2013, the basic blog has evolved into a fully functional publishing 
platform that is being used for dynamic websites, versus the simple entry type blog made 
popular by Justin Hall's first weblog (justinslinks.com). The reverse chronological 
journal of Hall's list of hyperlinks, poetry, stories and personal updates has not changed 
with more modern blogs. Typically entries are still posted from top to bottom, posts 
reading downward like a journal on a scroll. The changes that the weblog has seen since 
then fall in three categories: a rise in access to the medium with more user-friendly 
software and applications, an increased capacity for sharing and reader interaction and 
recently, an image-heavy redesign that allows the reader more perceived control over 



17 



what they get to read. 



mere tweakery 

By Justin on Jwu^.J3 JL K13J2^..^ 1 . 

I spent most of my waking hours so far this weekend combing the 
thousands of files in this site: 

- standardizing headers and meta information 

- revising formatting 

- fixing broken links and server-side include references 

Our world is dying. We are confused, lurching from joy to sadness. 
Nothing is permanent. Our deities are delusional or out of reach. So why 
are you bothering with these trivialities and technical details Justin?!? 

I aim to reveal more in near time, suffice it to say this old site needs 
some housecleaning that it might remain useful, nay, readable in this 
pre-modern era. 



Thanksgiving 201 2 

By Justin on November 22, 2012 1:17 AM 

I have the job of saying grace before my big family meals. Thanks Mom! 
Here is my offering for Thanksgiving 2012: 

[don't read this if you're part of my family and we're having dinner 
together 22 November 2012!!!! I'm going to read this aloud to you 
instead :-) ] 

in this clarity of autumn 

when the leaves ride high on the compost pile 
looking through bare branches 

we might see the capacity in our world for new beginnings 

since we are all alive around this table right now 
that means we have survived at least this long 

and we can awaken our minds 
to make something new 

Figure IV.2 Justin's links still maintains the simple top-down reverse chronology of 
his original blog. 



18 



Generations 

MONDAY. 17 JANUARY 2005 

(Today's usually longer Daily entry is brought to you by Seagram's Gin. I will tell 
you the WHOLE story tomorrow, and believe me, it's a good one.) 

While bathing Leta Jon and I were talking about the names of her grandparents, 
specifically my mother and his mother, Grandmommie and Grandma 
respectively. He kept coaxing Leta into referring to me as Mother, and I felt a 
REALLY strong objection to that. I want her to call mo Mama, or Mommie, just like 
my mother wants to be referred to as Grandmommie rather than Granny, for 
OBVIOUS reasons. 

He asked, "So what are you going to be called when you are a grandmother?" 

I answered, "I dunno, certainly not 'Grandma.'" 

And he said, "They're going to call you, 'Crotchety Old Hag.'" 

And I responded, "Yeah, well then they'll call you, 'Crotchety Old Hag's Bitch.'" 



Etll FILE UNDER: DAILY . PARENTHOOD 
dUl LINK TO THIS ENTRY 



How to Charm Me 

MONDAY. 17 JANUARY 2005 

After the dog farts next to the baby's head for the second time in one day 
reprimand, "Cut it out, dog. Your mother and I are in love enough that we're the 
only ones allowed to do that to each other in this house." 



Et FILE UNDER: HOW TO CHARM ME 
LINK TO THIS ENTRY 



living in the heart of the Aryan Nation 

MONDAY, 17 JANUARY 2005 

Just now as I was on the phone with Beth she asked if Jon had the day off work. 

"Of course not," I answered. "It's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Utah doesn't even 
recognize that black people exist." 



Figure IV.3 Heather Armstrong's blog Dooce.com in 2005. 



19 



Latest rasis: 




The wise man built his 
house upon the dogs 

FobrjaryB. 2013 Dairy Ctkjc< 

She needs to hire a better 
contractor. 

Read More — • 





From inside the arch 

February B. 2013 Da y Photo 

And in the distance you can 
see phalluses everywhere. 

Read More -» 




Oh heflo, music. Did you think 
that I had forgotten about you? 

Read More -> 





Cracked wheat Tweedledum and 

3 dd^oxxx Tweedledee 

This is how I net rid of all the 
Fig IV.4 Armstrong's updated "Dooce" in 2013. 




Newsletter: Month One 
Hundred and Eight 

February 6. 2013 Daly 



While Justin's Links maintains the simple scroll-like look of some of the earlier 
blogs, Dooce' s look has completely changed. One large difference between the two is 
that Hall is not counting on his blog for a salary, while Armstrong has created a 
successful venture that supports her family and a handful of employees. Blogs have 
become moneymakers, therefore more likely to become a larger investment. Special 



20 



attention is paid to keywords and costs associated with search engine optimization (SEO), 
specialized content and paid ad placement throughout the web. The blog broadcasts the 
news for CNN.com, shares inspiration from business and lifestyle gurus and has been 
acquired as multi-million dollar commodities. Recently, the Huffington Post blog sold for 
$300,000,000. The publishing world saw the venerable weekly magazine Newsweek 
merge with the popular blog The Daily Beast, before the paper version folded into the 
web and is now like every other up-and-coming blog: digital articles optimized for 
aesthetics, waiting to be read and commented upon. 

The Inspiration: Making Your Blog Significant (With Insight For Pedagogy) 

While working at a company in the tech sector, the management team and I 
decided to bring in an intern to work for the summer. During the interview I asked if he 
was comfortable blogging. He said he was and, for a moment, I was a bit stung by his 
confidence. Apparently I was pining for him to pause and be intimidated by the art; 
maybe look to me for some advice as to how one begins to blog. But he did not. He said 
he blogged all of the time, so much so that he often starts a blog around a specific topic 
and then abandons it. I cringed a bit at what I'm hoping didn't appear as an old guy 
recoiling at the ways of our fickle youth. His confidence, however, had us set him loose 
on the Internet, and it turns out he's right. Blogging is no longer a big deal, especially in 
terms of production and maintenance. Like a company's promotional flier with a short 
shelf life, with blogs you can simply move on (without wasting one piece of paper.) 

The blog has become so user-friendly in its construction that the medium has 
become temporary. Just as a television news story can be a mere reflection of a single 



21 



event, a one-issue publication if you will, the blog can now emerge and fade with the 
moving news cycle. 

Back in the parlor, the blog has shrunk Burke's world into fragments of often 
forgettable instances of history. Regardless, history is being made, or at least documented 
(which seems to be one and the same), at a pace and volume that would frighten your 
casual parlor goer. The blog has piqued public interest in personal reactions of the public 
arena, thus creating a perpetual discussion that engages even further writing in a cycle of 
call and response. 

I bring up these fleeting instances of single-topic discourse so that you too can 
realize how not difficult Hogging can be. Tumblr is a fine example of the blog's 
evolution, from the early days of computer code to being published in minutes. Tumblr is 
a platform for the long term or for a fleeting trend and, with its "reblog" function for 
sharing entries, is designed with community in mind. 

Tumblrs are easily built, so much so that in one day, on February 6, 2013, Tumblr 
reported 72,190,713 posts were created in the 24-hour period. The result of this new 
expediency has allowed entire blogs— not mere blog comments or microblogging posts- 
to become quick rejoinders to any situation. The blog bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com 
became an overnight sensation with reader-generated photo responses to Governor Mitt 
Romney's October 2012 statement that he had "binders full of women" as potential job 
applicants for his Massachussett's gubernatorial cabinet. After only a few months the 
publisher has announced that "It's time to close the binder," the blog having successfully 
captured and magnified the moment for public engagement. 



22 



The second reason I share this section about Tumblr is that successful blog 
writing is often about capturing trends. Whether it's commenting on them or weaving 
them into a discussion about your business, brands are now putting up quick Tumblr sites 
that seize on a trend, a public persona or any number of innovations and/or train wrecks 
whirling around the web, and using them to bolster their image, increase traffic to their 
website and even make money with ads and affiliate sales. The criticism of Tumblr is that 
it attracts a very young demographic, one that isn't making a lot of major household 
purchasing decisions right now. However, as Cathy Davidson writes in her book Now 
You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, 
and Learn, today's youth have "grown up searching for information online. They had 
grown up socializing online, too, playing games with their friends online and, of course, 
sharing music files online" (62). It's a good time to introduce yourself to the most 



23 



Internet savvy generation yet. 



SEXY BILL GATES 



SEXY BILL GATES 


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Company 
sponsor 
with link 
back to site. 




name.< 


Make your own Sexy Bill Gate 







PAGE SUBMIT ARCHIVE RANDOM RSS SEARCH 

TWITTER 



10TH JUL 2U13 | 1 NOTE 




Figure VI.5 Tumblr allows a fast way to gain traffic through any trend. Not every 
trend (like risque memes of famous people) will fit a business' s image. 



24 



The dogma of the big dog/little dog business binary has been buffered by 
technology opening "new avenues for expression" that are "beginning to challenge the 
hegemony of the purveyors of mass culture" (Barlow, 130). The business that is online 
and blogging moves the conversation beyond the interaction of the institution and into the 
community. Before that can happen, and before the discussion of actual composition, it is 
necessary to know how to sell the idea of a blog to management and to the rest of the 
company. I'm including "the Pitche" in the thesis because it shares how simply a blog 
can be executed while benefitting the company's brand and bottom line. 

Voice: Figure Out Who You Are And How You Should Sound 

When you're in this position of pitching a blog to management, don't forget about 
including the "rest of the company." Having everyone's buy-in means a built-in audience, 
an in-house expansion of social networks and perhaps even some talented blogging 
contributors. William Toll of Profitbricks.com said in an interview about employees as 
brand ambassadors that "your employees could very easily tell your story much better 
than any marketing person or any customer." Before a company unleashes the platoons of 
posts, however, it's important to hone the company's voice. 

In Writing for the Web: A Practical Guide, Cynthia Jeney explains that online 
writers must know "(a) how to write cleanly and accurately in expected, user-satisfying 
styles and (b) how to develop exciting and stimulating new kinds of writing that will 
attract the attention and hold the interest of those fickle, click-happy Internet surfers" 
(100). Jeney goes onto explain that style for the web is not unlike writing developed by 
Erma Bombeck or Emily Dickinson. They developed their own style for humor and 
drama, and readers came to expect and adore the devices they used. A company can 

25 



implement a style guide and have only a limited number who can actually publish to the 
blog. To maintain voice, however, it's a good idea to have one person who is the blog, 
the "Blogfather" perhaps, who writes most of the entries and can provide company 
context for guest posts. This is a good way to avoid micromanaging writing. 

In her book Using Blogs to Enhance Literacy, Diane Penrod says that by 
understanding the blog, writers can learn "how to present the right information at the 
right time for the right audience using the right discourse strategies" (47). This is a 
reminder to utilize multimodality to maximize voice. Any good blogging strategy uses 
the platform's ability to host multiple media formats. Video and podcasting are 
innovative ways to capture people when they are speaking without editing (don't worry, 
future manager, editing can always take place in post-production.) 

With modes of production outside of writing, the company's spokespeople can 
speak without noodling over where to put a semicolon. They can slip back into the 
simplicity of sound and realize their authentic human voice. For SEO purposes, 
highlights of what's being said can be transcribed and posted with the audio, video or 
graphic. And as far as recording is concerned, simply keep that recorder on hand and 
capture the idea so you can get down on paper or in a blog post. 

The company voice (which very well could be your voice) may not congeal 
immediately, and the feedback may not show up in droves, but by using internal company 
insights, surveys and focus groups, you can sound and read as you'd like much faster. 
Then again, soliciting for comments is never a bad thing, as you need to invite your 
audience into the conversation and, as Barlow writes, the blog "enables immediate 



26 



reinforcement of the writing act, and that comes in ways more reminiscent of speech than 
writing" (Barlow, 15). 

The First Rule Of Blogging: Blog 

Management and co-workers will want to know when you'll find time to write. 
There has to be about a hundred publications promoting unplugging to get things done 
(one of the best being Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus 
and Sharpen Your Creative Mind). Today's unplugging means you still get electricity, 
just not the Internet. You turn off chat, log out of email and, if you're a serious case, get 
one of those applications that locks you out of your web browsers for a set amount of 
time. This has become necessary not only for blogs, but also the drafts, press releases, 
promotional items, newsletters, social media posts and internal documents that you will 
eventually be called on to write. You can use this material, not always verbatim, but in 
the voice, and in whatever template for public sharing that you can incorporate your 
brand to help you write for the public-facing blog. 

I can't tell you how to write (As Berlin also writes, ""All that the teacher can do is 
provide an environment in which the student can learn, relying on such activities as free 
writing, rewriting, journal writing, editorial groups, and the encouragement of the 
original metaphor" [152].) but I can give a company many reasons why you should blog. 
The italics are intended because blogging gives you more options than writing. The blog 
is multimodal— the king of multimodality-and can be a place to post pictures, 
infographics, video, podcasts, relevant memes and whatever is timely and beneficial for a 
growing audience. 



27 



The multimodality of the blog offers great examples in what Eric Butow and 
Rebecca Bollwitt offer in their book, Blogging to Drive Business. It's a lesson in 
company messaging by where you "Don't plug your business. Instead, provide free 
answers." The Renaissance for content providers (writers, videographers, graphic artists) 
has arrived for providing answers and, "If people like your answers and see that you're an 
expert, they will find your profile and learn more about your business. (24)" 

In showing what they're capable of, businesses use the blog as a space where they 
can synthesize feedback and, in reaction, create a new composition that can now become 
a new source— a new part of the conversation. As Elbow writes, "It opens up a door for 
you and somehow helps you think of more things to write" (22). 

Burke's metaphor, a massive literary moment expanding outward over the 
entirety of human history, thrives in the microcosm of individual business blogs. The 
good news for the busy businessperson is that blog entries should be only about three 
hundred words long (Wolf, 58). For SEO purposes, you're wasting time if your posts are 
under two hundred, and for the purpose of audience retention you really shouldn't go 
over five hundred. Blogs can make words come much easier as you'll be involved in the 
collaboration necessary to become a better writer. Elbow encourages free writing so that 
you learn to "just say it" without getting "distracted from their meaning by considerations 
of spelling, grammar, rules, errors" (15). Write it down, edit it later. With business 
blogging you do have to forego the feel-goodness of an Internet that excuses mistakes, 
because conventional composition errors are glaring on a web page associated with a 
company's website. 



28 



You're surfing the Internet anyway (necessary or not) so take notes as you click 
around blogs, catch up on news and your favorite social sharers. Take notes to get ideas, 
to comment, use quotes and share. If you're properly citing work and, in the high 
compliment of the digital age, linking back to the original blog, then you're doing what is 
expected of an online community. Academic institutions usually do a pretty good job of 
scaring you away from plagiarism, which is good, because in the online business world, 
you're risking a complete loss of credibility from whatever work you've done on your 
blog, throughout your social media, for your employee morale and your business in 
general. 

To begin the process of writing, take in all the opportunity and then free write it 
into the tabula rasa of the blog. You can save and come back later to make it more 
appealing (editing, adding an image, and putting in the appropriate links.) Every entry is 
a new opportunity to connect and, even more so, make your website the epicenter for the 
conversation about your products, services, industry or even family, health issues, 
personal aspirations and interesting quirks. Sure, it has to work for your business, but 
don't be afraid to experiment. Besides, you should have an in-house editing process that 
includes a trusted team of coworkers. 

Sharing internally before you share it with the world is necessary so you know it's 
something you should share at all. This isn't to say you can't be trusted to write by 
yourself, but it offers assistance in not only editing and grammar, but also insight on 
potential public feedback to which you need to prepare a response. An example is the 
recent revelations of the National Security Agency's (NSA) "PRISM" program that 
intercepts customer communications of major technology companies like Yahoo!, Google 



29 



and Facebook. If a company wanted to join the many in the tech sector that blogged 
against the program, they'd need to know how to respond to public (blog comments) 
questions about their own involvement, if any, and how they balance their commitment to 
customers with their responsibility to the federal government. 

This entry from Brad Feld, a venture capitalist who has turned his blogging and 
writing into a successful brand, demonstrates how you can expound on more than product 
and profits (also the importance of creating a community, which we're just about to 
discuss.) 

Regroup Successful 

July 1st, 2013 

— yiWMt x-31 fluke {l9| b »1 k 1 I 

Ak 80 Comments ™ — 

ffll Share 

My theme for Q2 was "regroup." I wrote about this in my post When The Sun Comes Out in early May as I was starting to feel my 
depression lifting. It's officially gone at this point - I feel normal, and have for at least a month (probably six weeks.) That's long enough to 
declare this depressive episode over. 

The feedback I've gotten from talking openly about my depression has been incredible. I'm deeply appreciative of everyone who engaged 
me, offered me support, help, suggestions, empathy, or just said "thanks for sharing." While I didn't have any urgency about feeling better, I 
was optimistic that I would based on the arc of my previous two major depressive episodes (the first for two years in my mid-205, the 
second for three months in my mid-30s). This one - at age 47 - lasted about six months which is so much less than two years... 

My goal in Q3 was simply to "regroup." I've talked about some of the specific tactics that I tried. Many people have asked me what they 
were. Here's a quick list 

• Stopped drinking alcohol 

• Stopped drinking coffee 
» Stopped travelling 

• Stopped waking up at 5am - just slept until ! woke up 

• Wentto bed consistently at 10pm 

• Running when I felt like it 

» Scheduled a lot less things 

• Took a digital sabbath - no email or phone from Friday night until Sunday morning 

• Started floating in an isolation tank once a week 

• Didn't fight how I felt 

• Shared openly with friends / spend more time with friends, especially with men 

• Checked in with Amy every day- worked hard to communicate my emotions 

From a work perspective, I focused on the things that mattered and tried to eliminate all the other stuff. I prioritized my Foundry Group 
partners, the companies we are investors in, and Techstars. Ratherthan looking at a lot of new stuff, I shut it all down and made sure I had 
time for all the existing stuff. I put more effort into videoconferencing and face to face interactions locally since I was n't travel ling. And I tried 
not to schedule anything before 11am. 

As Q2 comes to an end, I feel that I have successfully regrouped. I've added back in a few things that I want to do, including drinking coffee 
and getting up at 5am. I'm still not drinking, but I'm being more disciplined about my running, And 1 believe that digital sabbath will be a part 
of my rhythm for the rest of my life, although I'm letting myself answer the phone when it rings and occasionally sending an email or a text 
throughout the day when I need to communicate something to someone. 

Fig IV.6 The Interactive Rhetoric of blogging invites readers into your life, and in 
return they offer an opportunity for new conversations. 



30 



Even though he wades into the immensely personal, he still creates a conversation 
about commerce and keeps the content relatable to those in the business community. 
"From a work perspective, I focused on the things that mattered and tried to eliminate all 
the other stuff," he writes before going into his business goals for Q3 (feld.com). You're 
not going to be successful writing just anything and hearkening back to the ranting days 
of the early blog, but as Feld did in Figure 8, you can certainly write about things that 
affect your business. Will you take a job with Century 21 Real Estate and write about 
your depression? Maybe not, but any company would love to show that they care about a 
serious issues. Some of the more popular business blogs, including the newly invigorated 
Linkedln blogging platform, cover everything from alleviating work stress to how to pull 
a successful office prank (note that both have a clear benefit to their niche audience.) 

Mark Nicholson, Head of Digital and Interactive for the bank ING Direct Canada 
warmed the collaborative heart of online communities everywhere when he said, "Our 
whole view is that we shouldn't have secrets. If we're willing to talk about it in a 
boardroom, we should be willing to talk about it in front of consumers" (Butow & 
Bollwit, 92). Any company should have a social media and blogging policy in place. Tim 
O'Reilly's Blogger's Code of Conduct is a good place to start. This is the draft of the 
code inspired by the BlogHer Convention, and since has been updated multiple times by 
different organizations and collaborators. Here's the most succinct form from Wikipedia. 
According to the New York Times, O'Reilly and Jimmy Wales based their 
preliminary list on one developed by the BlogHer women's blogging support 
network and, working with others, came up with a list of seven proposed ideas: 



31 



1 . Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you 
allow on your blog. 

2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments. 

3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments. 

4. Don't feed the trolls. 

5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary 
who can do so. 

6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so. 

7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person. 

You could write an entirely different thesis on corporate communication 
guidelines. Michael Goodman and Peter Hirsch's subtitled "Strategic Adaptation for 
Global Practice" is a good place to start. In this thesis, the guidelines used are meant to 
aid in setting up a blog, the eventual composition, as well as making blog writing more 
significant to the community. 

In addressing the significance of your blogging, online composition comes with 
the advantage of using Internet analytics. This is the data-driven opportunity to examine a 
conversation and find out how long people are staying to read your entries, what material 
they're responding to, and just how well you're doing in attracting people to your corner 
of the room. "What blog posting or broadcast message can I send out to my readership 
that really prompts a response?" asks Napoletano, who shared her Google Analytics in 
finding out how to replicate and improve upon success. She gets answers to her data 

32 



questions: "What time of day is listing the highest open rate on my email. What is it on 
my Facebook page that's really, really getting people? What's spreading organically? It's 
data that reminds me what's very important and I have to keep track of it" 
(redheadwriting . com) . 



Google Analytics 



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Figure IV.7 Google Analytics measures traffic to your site. You'll note the heavy 
traffic to Erika's blog, a close second to her homepage. 



33 



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bringing visitors back to the website. 



34 



Traffic Sources Overview 

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Search Traffic Referral Traffic; I Direct Traffic Campaigns 




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Figure IV.9 These are incredible numbers, especially for Direct and Referral traffic. 



A blog's dialogue encapsulates the learning process. The reader leaves comments, 
the writer responds, creating a conversation that helps both parties better understand any 
challenges they are facing. Beyond the human interaction is the online trail created by 
analytics that trace where you should concentrate your efforts, and tells you in a very 
concise way what you're doing that is working. In Figures nine, ten and eleven you get a 
high-level overview of how and where to focus your efforts. Who wants to be part of 
your community and why? The data tells you, especially when you investigate where 
your referral traffic (often coming from links on social media) is coming from. This 



35 



feedback helps incorporate ideas into the next draft or the next piece altogether. This 
evolution of discourse is championed by Berlin's classical transaction rhetoric that he 
says is the individual "conceived of as inherently transactional, arriving at truth through 
engaging the surrounding material and social environment" (16). 



36 



CHAPTER V 



BECOMING BETTER BY BUILDING A COMMUNITY 

This is where you get to become a better writer, a better communicator and a 
better representative to the company. This is where the "pull" comes roaring back to the 
blogger's benefit. While you're sharing your expertise, you're not pushing products on 
people, you're pulling them in with information from which they benefit. Blogging is 
about bringing value to your customers and has your target demographic realizing that 
you appreciate them. Being a blogger with traction is about creating conversations that 
make people say, "Hey, you appreciate me. You understand what's important to me" 
(redhead writing . com) . 

Robert Scoble says that blogging demonstrates a person's passion "by using 
language that shows you are excited about going to work every day" (126). In that case, 
the reader seeks out enthusiasm in the voice, in the style, and in the topic. That passion 
garners readers of similar interest, thus creating a community of readers with shared 
features and conventions. Miller and Shepherd trace the history of the weblog to the log 
of a ship or an airplane that has the "implication that the genre is the record of a journey 
whose details may be significant to others" (1464). 

Looking at data is one sure way to test whether you are significant or not. Within 
your professional community, you can use crowdsourcing, polling and even prizes. 
Crowdsourcing "refers to asking readers of the blog for feedback so that the business can 
meet those customers' needs as directly and immediately as possible" (Butow and 
Bollwitt, 14). Glen Fleishmann postulates in his article "Been 'Blogging'? Web 
Discourse Hits a Higher Level," that the blog has grown so quickly in part because, "The 

37 



structure enables readers to have a more direct relationship with the writer and that builds 
overtime" (110). 

Listening is half of any conversation, so enabling your readers to speak and 
replying to their comments gives them "a sense of ownership, knowing their opinions 
truly matter to the company" (Butow and Bollwitt, 72). You can also "listen" to the 
Internet using the likes of "Google Alerts along with Truecast and Radian6 to scan the 
Internet for mentions" of your products, brands and conversations of interest (89). 

While the blog can instigate great conversations, critical thinking and online 
corroboration, it can also be a source of destructive criticism. It's something to keep in 
mind: you will be responsible for handling and providing feedback! The anonymity of 
online conversations has wrought a whole subculture of "trolls," those blog commenters 
who can be downright cruel. Even the CEO of the Whole Foods grocery chain was found 
to be anonymously attacking a competitor on Yahoo's financial message boards 
(Rosenberg, 245). 

Erika Napoletano says that negativity is not entirely a bad thing because, as she 
asks, "Wouldn't you rather have your customers come out and say they don't like 
something so you can have that conversation directly with them?" Twitter and Facebook 
have become the greatest and most efficient places to show your customers that you are 
indeed listening. The blog is the reference to which you can guide those with questions 
that need bigger answers, such as policy queries, video tutorials and even amicable 
rejoinders to contentious issues. When you're tactfully answering and directing negative 
comments, those in your community are watching and sharing what they are seeing as 



38 



quality customer service. 





Brandon West 

■Stxandonmwest 



Following 



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Figure V.l It's not if you have a customer service issue, but how you handle it. 
People are listening and sharing. 



As Tyrone Adams and Stephen Smith write in their book Electronic Tribes, it's 
all about creating community. It's where we can be comforted that Internet is "where 
physical safety is not threatened and demographic information may be lacking," and 
where "group membership derives in part from shared symbol use, meanings, norms, 
prescriptions, and worldview" (144-145). That online community is where businesses can 
benefit from the blog's ability to emulate group settings, and even create a sense of 
loyalty where traditionally there may have been no sense of belonging at all. 



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CHAPTER VI 



A RHETORICAL STRUCTURE FOR PROLIFIC WRITING AND DIGITAL 

INTERACTION 

It takes some courage and assertiveness to blog. You're putting yourself out there 
to be read and be judged, let alone the reputation of an entire company. Here in this thesis 
it's time to slip into the impetus for blogging. It begins so innocently. You peruse a few 
other blogs until you believe that you could write something just as good. As Elbow 
prognosticates, "It makes you positively hungry to hear more, makes you wish you had 
written it, and then, finally, makes you realize that you could have written it" (23). 

'"If that nerd can write something like that, so can I!'" is Elbow's mantra for the 
sharing generation reared by a healthy diet of online collaboration (and perhaps 
competition.) The prewriting and free writing; the exercises that teach "you to write 
without thinking about writing" now can come to fruition beyond the writing classroom 
and with you into the modern workplace (15). 

It is with that energy that you need to step into Berlin's "discourse community" 
that serves to create meaning from the writer to the reader. If the traditional workplace 
were often a one-way public broadcast, the blog is the interactive network of company's 
communication potential. David Barlow writes that the blog allows for, "Confirmation of 
understanding of a sort that could not come along with past composition, as it did with 
speech. This new possibility enables immediate reinforcement of the writing act, and that 
comes in ways more reminiscent of speech than writing" (15). With the blog your writing 
is more resonant and deep with flesh; an intertextual beast to be devoured by the 
consumers of the Information Age. 

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As we have read, Burke and Berlin provide a necessary rhetorical foundation for 
the conversation of blogging, but the depth of understanding to turn keystrokes into an 
organic, sometimes sensual, experience comes from Roland Barthes. The linguist and 
literary critic does something like the Leaves of Grass version of compositions studies in 
which he torches convention with a sensual jaunt through the hidden meanings of the 
written word. In short, it's a brief but helpful tutorial on the bliss that darts ever elusively 
in the fog around it. The fog, at least for the purpose of this little paper, is everything seen 
and unseen, inflicted and mitigated, intended and not, in the atmosphere of a text. If 
you've ever heard anyone complain that the Internet needs a font for sarcasm or a tilde 
for dry humor, then you understand the depth of text. 

Text arrives with baggage— bucket loads of societal and cultural expectations of 
what is to be understood. But in Barthes The Pleasure of the Text we are told how to turn 
our mess of guts and neuroses into a guiltless pleasure machine. It is, after all, our 
moment with the text, our conjugal visit with the words outside of our "historical, 
cultural, psychological assumptions." 

Barthes says that the text is "that rare locus of language" where "logomachy is 
absent." According to Barthes, the text "supersedes grammatical needs" and can be free 
from the "reign of the stereotypes imposed by the petit bourgeois culture." The text no 
longer needs to be bloodless parts of a canon, but can become more of a fertile body. 
Even the sentence, that "exceptional object" of language structure that is "infinitely 
renewable" (despite having its paradox "articulated by linguists") takes note of the 
minutiae of organic familiarity. Daily routines murmured by a million mundane and 
minor voices create a catharsis of relation to the world. 



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Will you have that kind of voice online? Barthes suggests a variety of ways to 
access the pleasure of the text, from the fleeting first glance to the distraction that bolts in 
and away leaving you with some sort of new disruption. Whatever it is, you work 
towards pleasure and form an aristocracy of thought and understanding, an exclusive 
place for two, reader and writer soaring above the expectations of society, government 
and even business. 

It might be rare that you find yourself rolling in hedonistic joy with your laptop 
pressed to your face and your inhibitions off on the waves of ecstatic, moaning pleasure. 
But there is a meeting point where your blogging becomes your own voice that it 
transcends so much of the "rules" of composition. People understand it because you've 
created a persona that could very well be an online version of you, but it's writing that 
reads in a luxurious, almost guilty, comfort that persists to nibble away the foundation of 
everything you were ever taught about a taut and conformed five-paragraph essay. 

How does this happen? How do you get to this point where people other than 
yourself care about what you're creating? It's a victory to get one comment on a blog, let 
alone anyone attributing their pleasure to your writing. Although, of course, the mere fact 
you're blogging in the first place-jotting down and sharing the written word-is a mild 
form of resistance to the blissless business space. As Berlin says, to be "committed to 
truth conceived of as a social phenomenon, with implications for the entire community. 
(47)" Wile that's pretty heady stuff for someone who just wants to share the latest in 
shoes, blogger Rebecca Blood helps put the idea into perspective by writing, "The 
insightful weblogger has an opportunity to elucidate and navigate the unknown for his 
readers instead of pulling the gate shut behind them." Now, how to do that rhetorically. 



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Blood has a nice fiery bit on professional bloggers and their need to be more open and 
communicative: 

Notably, weblogs that focus on a shared profession rarely exhibit this closed- 
mindedness or lack of respect with regard to dissenting opinion. They eagerly link 
to one another, disagree vigorously and respectfully, and are willing to test their 
ideas against the differing ideas of their colleagues. Sometimes they simply state 
their opposing opinions and leave it to the reader to decide. In a the world of 
professional weblogs, disagreement is a virtue, but disrespect and animosity are 
not tolerated. 

You might reply, "Sweet God! I'm not going to toss typographical grenades at 
business colleagues!" Yes, for a business Blood might sound a little hot and opinionated. 
But it's a nice mantra for the rhetorical key to access the attention your blogging deserves 
and to unearth the conversations that takes your conversation to near Barthes levels of 
appreciation. It is Invitational Rhetoric, and when Kenneth Burke wrote about in the 
article "A Rhetoric of Motives," it was 1950 and women were expected to be vacuuming 
in a long dress and pearls. It is, however, a rhetorical turn based in Feminist Theory. To 
narrow this to business blogging: this is the Information Age, information is the currency 
by which you can interest and access customers, but that's difficult if you don't seem 
interested in them. 

Burke turns Aristotle's rhetoric from an available means of persuasion and 
explains that it does not have to be manipulation. Invitational Rhetoric, according to 
Burke, can be a used to build communities and help us learn to live with each other 



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because "efforts to dominate and gain power over others cannot be used to develop 
relationships of equality" (Burke, 145). 

Across the blogosphere the invitation to build communities is not only 
recommended, but deemed necessary to attract the readers you want for your business. 
Burke explains the two primary rhetorical forms of Invitational Rhetoric as, "Offering 
perspectives, a model by which rhetors put forward for consideration their perspectives; 
the second is the creation of external conditions that allow others to present their 
perspectives in an atmosphere of respect and dignity" (147). Sixty years later the same 
sentiments are echoed by some of the most successful business bloggers. Napoletano says 
that "The blog is a vehicle for me to start conversations and see what other people have to 
say. When I share stories, the stories that are shared with me create conversations I never 
knew I'd have." 

In examining Burke's analysis of Invitational Rhetoric we find bloggers 
everywhere using its two primary tenets quite successfully. The "external conditions" he 
requires are the blog, the comments, trackbacks, shares and entire socially interactive 
landscape provided by the rhetor, which in this case is the blogger. 

James Berlin's life and writing predates the blog, but his defining of transactional 
rhetoric as "an epistemology that sees truth as arising out of the interaction of the 
elements of the rhetorical situation: an interaction of subject and object or of subject and 
audience or even of all the elements-subject, object, audience, and language— operating 
simultaneously" (15), bodes well for Michael Keren's "rebirth of the public sphere." 
Keren, a political scientist whose book Blogosphere suggests that blogs have 
"raised hopes for a reinvigoration of a public sphere worn off in an age of centralized 



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mass media" (9). Berlin's portrayal of John Dewey's progressive education as a "social 
construction, a communal creation emerging from the dialectical interplay of 
individuals," paves a road to blogger Rebecca Blood's "vigorous exchange of ideas" (47). 

The rhetorical structure of a blog leads to Blood (and, fittingly, not blood as 
Aristotle had promoted the earliest rhetorical theory as a superior means to brutality) and 
her "unprecedented tool with which to share ideas and understand other worldviews," 
which is a very good thing for your company. By simply sharing your story, and 
therefore your passion and expertise, you're pulling in new customers via inbound 
marketing, as compared to the sales calls of outbound marketing. 

Rebecca Corliss, an inbound marketing strategist at Hubspot, says: 

It's content that's of value to the customer on the blog that people like, share or 
click. You're a business and your first instinct is to let someone know about you, 
but when someone is investigating information or looking for an answer, they're 
not necessarily going to be thinking, 'OK, what's the best company to do this for 
me,' but more 'what is the information to make my life easier.' With a car issue 
I'm looking to see if I'm caring for my car properly and not looking for a specific 
mechanic. So when a mechanic gives me helpful advice, I'm going to trust that 
person and when I do need a mechanic I know where to take my car. 

The conversation you create with your customers is where truth can be found in a 

"social construct involving the interaction of interlocutor and audience (or discourse 

community)" (Berlin, 15). Ultimately, Berlin continues, "Choices are made on the basis 

of public discourse." The structure of the blog's discourse is built around a frame of 

Berlin's definition of classical transactional rhetoric and Burke's parlor conversation, 

which is always mutually beneficial when it's wrapped up in Invitational Rhetoric. "Text 

is tissue," adds Barthes. "We are now emphasizing, in the tissue, the generative idea that 

the text is made; is worked out in a perpetual interweaving" (64). 



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CHAPTER VII 

CONCLUSION 

On June 25, 2013, Wendy Davis became a national sensation when she stood for 
eleven hours to filibuster a bill on the floor of the Texas State Senate. The problem was 
that the nationally televised media didn't seem to care or, as they'd profess the following 
day, they didn't have the staff or time to make it appear that they cared. When you 
flipped through the television channels, the traditional bastions of information, there 
wasn't a single story about the Texas senator. However, there was one public television 
access channel that carried the vigil online. Bloggers picked it up. Twitter carried links to 
it and the hash tag "#standwithwendy" went viral. The next morning one of the big 
stories was that she was successful in stopping the bill. The other was that, thanks to 
social media and blogs, Davis' filibuster became news without any major media entity 
paying any attention to it. 

Of course this is of little solace to a small business blog seeking to become a 
major news story. Davis has the advantage in that she's elected official in a major 
institution in the second largest state in what is often considered the most powerful nation 
in the world. She was in a statewide office talking about a national issue and a 
groundswell of support grew. Luckily, however, your blogging is building your own 
grassroots campaign. Like Burke's parlor conversation, the successful blog is created and 
grows over time. Your blog makes some memorable moments but it's your passion and 
expertise that gives reasons for people to keep coming back. You're blogging because it 
makes you better at what you do, keeping you ahead of your industry and buoyed in the 



46 



growing deluge of information. Probably the best part is that you're now looked to as a 
trusted source for your ideas, products and services. 

Miller and Shepherd discuss the blog as a "shared rhetorical convention" that 
"functions as a site of relative stability." They suggest we see all genres as such backward 
motions, as "efforts at stabilization in the flux of continual change." In a quickly 
changing culture, "the blog makes 'real' the reflexive effort to establish the self against 
the forces of fragmentation, through expression and connection, through disclosure" 
(1469). It's a metaphor especially necessary under the fluorescent exhale of the office 
space where you have this page, a refuge really, where you can search through 
information to pull together something that, through your voice, sheds new light on the 
discussion already at hand. Within the web's three-dimensional structure exists a new 
depth for movement, a hyperlinked slash right through the page and on and on, liberating 
you from budgetary and logistical restraints, and revealing new colleagues and clients 
who appreciate your presence. 

And now you, transcending the neon hype of everything Internet, have joined the 
Burkean conversation. Its 19th Century parlor is now amplified across the World Wide 
Web, into homes, classrooms and businesses. You're carrying the conversation and 
pulsing from nearly every pixel is an opportunity for enhanced exposure, collaboration 
and community. The implications can go global but your blogging begins right where you 
are. 



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